Who I Am
In the summer, I feel joy in the moments I feel the grass under my bare feet. In the winter, with warm socks on inside my boots, I enjoy my daily reprieves to nature in the form of walks with my dog Nugget. During time spent outdoors, I try to intentionally breathe in the breeze and let it fill me with any and all emotion. I thank the trees— especially the ones off the path that I imagine might not have heard a thank you in a while—for keeping us alive. I invoke fascination when I see water systems, such as rivers and small streams, and let myself wonder about the lives of the species that habituate within them. These moments, alongside many other such moments of peace, take place while I reside upon the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. I’m grateful to live, work and thrive upon these lands at present, and call what is currently Vancouver, home. I am incredibly appreciative of all of the land defense efforts that have allowed for me to experience this beautiful world in this way.
I want to acknowledge, with pride, my ancestry as a Sikh woman from Punjab, while also acknowledging that I have grown up in what is currently Canada almost all of my life after immigrating at age 3. I often reflect upon the honour of both being a woman of colour, and importantly of being someone who sees, experiences & interacts with the world using a neurodiverse view. I see my severe ADHD diagnosis in adulthood as something that has offered me clarity towards the unique struggles I've encountered in my life, within a world that is not built to accommodate my neurodivergence. Moreover, I also see this intrinsic part of me as a superpower that enables me to be a passion-driven, dynamic, quick and immensely creative intellectual. As an academic and as a community organizer, I recognize the duty I have to offer representation for others that share my intersections of identities. I find strength in using my lived experiences to inform my scholarship and my activism, and I find healing in maintaining connections to my ancestral roots. I want to acknowledge privileges I have, of both my access to post-secondary education, and being able to volunteer my time to a multitude of causes.
There are many voices, namely of my Indigenous and racially minoritized peers, that go unheard because they are working, living and thriving as best they can, in a world that doesn’t guarantee liveable wages, income, gender or racial equity, nor social security in all forms. While I am thankful to be given a platform, I do not intend on speaking on behalf of communities of colour in general. I move through this space guided by the practice of centring community voices and commit to continuing my own learning alongside these efforts, always. Working in the realm of advocacy for the health and wellbeing of all that inhabit the Earth, I recognize (and work to engage others in the idea) that we cannot fix a problem that has its roots this deep in colonization without first investigating the nature of our practices as researchers, educators and advocates and promoting critical decisions to promote anti-colonial approaches in all instances. I continue to vocally and visibly support initiatives that aid us in moving closer towards a collective liberation from oppressive systems and towards the thriving of minoritized, marginalized and underserved populations.
As someone who has had many a foray with depression, I often automatically think, “does any of this even matter?”— only amplified when facing the crushing blow of society’s social, political and environmental shortcomings in the news. The day I moved to what is currently Vancouver, B.C., the province broke the all-time record for hottest day recorded in Canadian history, at 47.9C. That fateful Monday, three hours away from me, the town of Lytton was decimated to rubble in 15 minutes after being engulfed in flames. I saw pictures of people losing absolutely everything, and puppies with scorched paws being rescued. My friends and I were suffering in the unrelenting heat, as having an A/C in your home is not commonplace here due to there not being a need historically. However, we found it hard to complain once we acknowledged that those without shelter, water, food and access to cooling options of some sort, were faring much worse. Soon after, the Vancouver coroner reported that 719 people died sudden deaths that day, a number noted to be significantly exacerbated by the heat waves, indicating the province (and more specifically, public health)’s lack of preparedness in managing this emerging, yet urgent threat-to-life. Experiencing something like that, the reality of the climate crisis truly hits you like bricks. It only reiterated to me that this work is important, and necessary. In saying that, I also acknowledge that many of us still move through this world under the constructs of predominantly white, cis, capitalist patriarchal colonial structures that have in large part been the driving forces for the havoc humans have reaped upon our bountiful planet. To quote Audre Lorde, “the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house”, so I commit to this work being one of the many things I hope to do to address the climate crisis, a harmful symptom of extractive, diseased systems.
Given my background in Biomedical Science (my BSc) and Public Health and Health Systems (my MSc), the health lens is the primary framing through which I approach research and advocacy work.
I believe anthropogenic climate change and environmental degradation, according to both western institutional and Traditional Knowledge, is impacting our way of life and our viability as a species. Thus, the climate crisis is a public health crisis now and in years to come. Moreover, when I work in both academic spaces and the voluntary sector, I use an intersectional lens (Crenshaw, 1989) to acknowledge the interactions societal privileges and oppression that compound to create diverse lived experiences for folks, particularly as it concerns their right to a healthy, safe, equitable and abundant environment. I am acutely aware of and have worked in both research and community-led social justice campaigns, concerning communities of colour who are inequitably harmed, oppressed, underserved and/or structurally vulnerable to negative health outcomes. Thus, to me, to advocate for environmental and climate action means to address societal inequities determining health outcomes alongside mitigation and adaptation efforts. This is referred to as environmental and climate justice; an approach which underlines that those who already face disproportionately higher health risks due to a variety of systemic factors are the ones who face the gravest negative impacts associated with these crisises (Watts et al., 2019, pp. 1836-1878). Overall, in my worldview, environment and climate justice is both personally meaningful due to my social location and is critical public health work.
Importantly, for my doctoral work, I’m diving deeper into anti-colonial, disruptive scholarship and how it can help move us from just acknowledging and documenting harms to co-imagining futures. In doing so, I strive to investigate and contribute to scholarship in the politics of knowledge and how to create environments for pluralistic ontologies and epistemologies to be liberated. Upon engaging with anti-colonial texts such as Pollution is Colonialism (Liboiron, 2021) and Discard Studies (Liboiron and Lepawsky, 2022), I am challenged once again to look beyond the ‘traditional’ methods employed by scholars wishing to do community-engaged research and above all, not ‘assume access’ to any being or place in my scholarly and research pursuits.